I'm looking for a word to describe a computer that's not a server. I know that in some contexts the opposite may be "client", but that implies the ability to form a network connection to a server, which is not necessary in my context. It can just be a standalone computer or any computer which does not run a server operating system.

I'm also looking for the opposite to "server operating system", for example, a word to describe all Windows operating systems that do not have "Server" in their name (Windows 2000, XP, Vista, 7, but not Windows Server 2000, 2003, 2008) – not necessarily restricted to Windows, though.

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    My desktop machine runs a server operating system (as does my mobile phone! :-) and is a client to lots of other servers. I think you are in a world of technical confusion trying to classify what "software" is for "servers"... – Pavling Jun 22 '11 at 9:25
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    @mplungjan - nope, Windows/Linux/Mac; all are multi-user OSs even if running standalone – Pavling Jun 22 '11 at 10:08
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    Not everything has an antonym. E.g. What's the opposite of "vacuum cleaner"? – UpTheCreek Jun 22 '11 at 11:42
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    @Felix - maybe that's your answer then - 'not a server'. – UpTheCreek Jun 22 '11 at 13:08
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    @UpTheCreek: A leafblower ;) – Marcin Jun 22 '11 at 18:34

My first suggestion would be a client. I don't agree that it necessarily implies a network connection, but I can see that it could be interpreted this way.

For the operating system I think the association to a network connection is even weaker, so I would definitely call it a "client operating system" to distinguish it from a more server-oriented OS.

Alternatively you could call the computer a "desktop computer" and the OS a "desktop operating system".

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    I think you will find desktop more common in both cases and yes, I would say that "client" does imply a network connection, as per: "A client is an application or system that accesses a remote service on another computer system, known as a server, by way of a network." – Unreason Jun 22 '11 at 9:17
  • And then someone will ask: "What about laptops?" – horatio Jun 22 '11 at 20:04

You may consider using workstation as well.

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    From the Services descriptions in Windows 7 - Server: Supports file, print, and named-pipe sharing over the network for this computer. Workstation: Creates and maintains client network connections to remote servers using the SMB protocol. So workstation is definitely the word that Microsoft would choose to answer this question. – MT_Head Jun 22 '11 at 9:49
  • That's actually the word that my boss uses right now and that I want to avoid, because a 'workstation' is IMHO (1) generally connected to a network, (2) Wikipedia says it's different from desktop computers, and (3) it's not widespread in non-professional (i.e. home) environments. – Felix Dombek Jun 22 '11 at 12:05
  • If you really want to get technical, and you are already ;), the majority of modern computers are workstations. Even when there are no dangly bits sticking out the back, the network interface--which is typically built into the motherboard--is active and has a private address assigned to it, typically in the 169.x.x.x subnet. It then becomes a zen question: "Is a network with one node a network?" – horatio Jun 22 '11 at 20:02
  • @horatio - And even if there isn't an actual physical interface, virtually all modern OSs create a virtual one for internal communication. Truly, there's no place like – MT_Head Jun 23 '11 at 3:41

Workstation used to be common. Desktop has become more common nowadays.


So simple .. it's just "personal computer." That's it.


You can try using "consumer" and "consumer operating system". Or as the other answers mentioned, use "desktop" and "desktop operating system".

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    The opposite to consumer OS is enterprise OS – George Gaál Aug 15 '11 at 23:57

The two other types that I know of are peer-to-peer distributed and stand-alone.

A server-client setup would be a distributed setup where some nodes are more privileged than others. In a peer-to-peer distributed system, the system is still distributed, but all nodes are of equal status. If instead your system isn't distributed at all, that would be stand-alone.

Note that Microsoft solves the problem you seem to be asking about (what to call the versions of their OS that aren't meant for servers) by just not putting the word "server" on the box. That's probably the best solution in your case too.


I would use standalone

To me workstation implies that the machine has to work with a server, as does client.

  • Standalone implies that the machine is not connected to a network. I think the question is about a term that doesn't imply anything about the network connectivity. – Joachim Sauer Jun 22 '11 at 11:22
  • Well, that would just be a "networked" system. – T.E.D. Aug 16 '11 at 13:32

Computers that have no operating system on them are referred to as thin clients. If you use it in the context of data, one computer that is wholly dependent upon another could be called a "slave" to the "master". This is used frequently in database replication systems.

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